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LABOR UNIONS IN THE GILDED AGE.  What’s a union?  Why unions?  The rise of unions  Major unions  Major events  Women in the labor movement OVERVIEW.

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Presentation on theme: "LABOR UNIONS IN THE GILDED AGE.  What’s a union?  Why unions?  The rise of unions  Major unions  Major events  Women in the labor movement OVERVIEW."— Presentation transcript:


2  What’s a union?  Why unions?  The rise of unions  Major unions  Major events  Women in the labor movement OVERVIEW


4  Groups of workers in the same industry  Elect leaders to negotiate with employers  Engage in collective bargaining over wages, benefits, and working conditions  Sometimes launch strikes to enhance bargaining power WHAT’S A UNION?

5  Strike: when a group of workers refuses to work in the hopes of getting better pay, benefits, or working conditions STRIKES


7  More people start working for wages  Work becomes much more unpleasant for many  Low-wage, low-skill jobs makes workers easier to replace  less bargaining power INDUSTRIALIZATION

8  Long hours  Low pay  Most family members had to work  Extremely difficult manual labor, often with no rest  Dangerous work  : 35,000 deaths/year in factory/mine accidents  500, million more injuries  Panic of 1873 leads employers to lay off workers and cut wages WORKING CONDITIONS

9  Strikebreakers (“scabs”): workers hired by companies to replace striking workers  Immigrants  African Americans  Intimidation/firing  Sabotage/infiltration  Pinkerton guards  Pinkerton National Detective Agency: founded 1850 in Chicago  Private security and law enforcement firm  Frequently hired by factory owners to intimidate union activists and protect strikebreakers  Reputation for violence RETALIATION

10  Many small, local, trade-specific unions and guilds  July 1877: railroad unions organize strikes to protest wage cuts  Violent confrontations between strikers and police  huge impact on rail travel and shipping  Worst violence in Pittsburgh  July 21: State troops fire on demonstrators, killing 10  Mob sets railway property on fire, burning 2,000 train cars  Troops shoot their way out, killing 20 more  Rutherford Hayes sends federal soldiers  Strikes collapse thanks to imbalance of force, weak economy (more strikebreakers), and lack of central leadership  Spurs workers to organize across trades THE RAILROAD STRIKES OF 1877



13  Founded 1869  Terence V. Powderly  Included skilled + unskilled, women, immigrants, black workers  Ultimate goal: workers’ cooperatives  Generally opposed to strikes, but engaged in some militant action THE KNIGHTS OF LABOR

14  May 1, 1886: general strike for an 8-hour day led by all unions in Chicago  3 days of peaceful demonstrations; police shoot and kill two union members while breaking up a fight on May 3  May 4: rally to protest police violence in Haymarket Square  Police approach to break up the orderly rally  Someone in the crowd throws a bomb  7 killed, 67 injured  Mass arrests of anarchists and union activists  Result: public becomes suspicious of labor unions; destroys the Knights of Labor THE HAYMARKET AFFAIR

15  Founded 1886  Samuel Gompers  Generally moderate  Concrete goals: wages, hours, collective bargaining  Generally excluded unskilled workers, immigrants, women, and African Americans THE AMERICAN FEDERATION OF LABOR

16  June 1892: Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steelworkers (AA) negotiating with Carnegie steel plant in Homestead, PA  Henry Frick closes plant and hires Pinkertons to protect strikebreakers  July 5: Firefight between workers and Pinkertons  State militia called in to break the strike and protect new, non-union employees  July 23: Anarchist attempts to assassinate Frick  Impact: setback for AFL; loss for strikers THE HOMESTEAD STRIKE

17  Pullman, Chicago: a “company town” for workers building Pullman railway cars  1894: Pullman lays off workers and cuts pay, but does not lower rents  Eugene V. Debs travels to Pullman and recruits factory workers to the American Railway Union (ARU)  The ARU calls for a boycott of all trains carrying Pullman cars THE PULLMAN STRIKE: CAUSES

18  June 26, 1894: ARU members begin refusing to work on trains carrying Pullman cars  125,000 workers walked off the job within the next four days  Huge disruption to transportation, shipping, and the economy in much of the country  Rail traffic shut down in 27 states  Railroads hire strikebreakers (“scabs”), including black workers  Violence by some union supporters angers the public and increases calls for federal intervention THE PULLMAN STRIKE: BOYCOTT

19  President Cleveland directs the government to shut down the strike  Federal troops protect strikebreakers and force an end to the boycott  30 strikers killed, 57 wounded  $800 million in property damage  By August 2, ARU ends the boycott; most strikers abandon the union and return to work THE PULLMAN STRIKE: INTERVENTION

20  Founded 1905 by radical Colorado miners  Known as IWW or “the Wobblies”  “One big union”: all laborers, regardless of race or trade  Ultimate goal: socialism  Often supported violence and sabotage  Collapsed during WWI and Red Scare INTERNATIONAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD

21  Most unions excluded women from membership; nearly all excluded them from leadership  A few exceptions: International Ladies Garment Workers Union; Lawrence textile mills  1919: IBEW Telephone Operator’s Department strikes, shutting down phone service in five states  Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) – founded 1903; link between women’s and labor movements WOMEN IN THE LABOR MOVEMENT

22  Lived approx  Traveled the country organizing coal miners and other laborers  Unconventional tactics  Included black and white workers  Used women and children in her protests  Didn’t wear a bow tie, but… MARY HARRIS “MOTHER” JONES

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